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2015

Monument Marking Air Force To Be Erected In Edmonton

Posted On: 09/09/2015

Edmonton's century-long association with Canada's Air Force will be commemorated with a striking monument to be erected this September in a former military base in the city's north end, now the site of a housing development, the Village at Griesbach. "For most of the past 100 years, Edmonton's name has been synonymous with the Air Force," says RCAF Commemorative Society President, Brigadeer-General (Ret'd) Bill Buckham. "But people who have moved to the area in the past two decades may not know that." Buckham says of the transformation of the air base at CFB Namao into an army base (the Edmonton Garrison) has left many unaware of the long and storied history of the city's Air Forces.

The Commemorative Society hopes to change that. The group will unveil its Ad Astra monument on Sunday, September 20. It's a ten-meter-high stainless steel sculpture surrounded by granite storyboards. They are designed to tell the story of Edmonton's strong contribution to Canada's Air Force history. The sculpture represents a "star burst," an aerobatic manoeuve familiar to many from military air shows. "Ad Astra" is part of the RCAF motto and means "to the stars."

The storyboards will highlight Edmonton's great achievements in military aviation starting in World War I with pilots like Wop May, through World War II with the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and into more recent times with squadrons flying everything from hand me down B-25 Mitchells to modern C-130 Hercules. The monument will be the centre point of Ad Astra Plaza, a symbolic runway that connections representations of the legendary Spitfire, the Avro Arrow and the C-130 Hercules, used by 435 Transport Squadron from the early 1960's to 1992.

Two other plazas represent units of the Air Force with ties to the city. Mosquito Plaza, formed in the shape of the famous fighter-bomber used by 418 (City of Edmonton) Squadron during World War II. Griffon Plaza, replicates the Griffon helicopter used by 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, the only RCAF unit still based in the Edmonton area.

The plazas overlook Roundel Lake, one of four man-made bodies of water connected by paths and parkland at the heart of the housing development.

Canada Lands Company, the federal crown corporation which is developing the area, has named three of the lakes in honour of the country's military services. Last year Patricia Lake was dedicated, as a memorial to the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. Not far away is Bedford Basin Lake, which commemorates those who served in the Canadian Navy.

Throughout the community, which will eventually hold about 14 thousand people, streets are named after events and people who played a pivotal role in our military history. The RCAF Commemorative Society has also received city approval to name streets near the Air Force moment after 8 Albertans who have made outstanding contributions to Canada's military aviation heritage. (We will feature some of these honorees in the next edition of this newsletter.) The RCAF Commemorative Society is raising $215,000 for the monument and the storyboards. The plazas, street name plaques and walkways are all the work of Canada Lands, which has committed to reflecting the military history of the area in its development.

The dedication of the monument and the site will coincide with an important date in military aviation history, the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. The Commemorative Society is also holding a formal dinner on Saturday, September 19th at the Chateau Louis Hotel. Tickets are limited and available by contacting alexanderhtsang@hotmail.com.

The unveiling of the monument will take place the following day at 1pm. The commerative park is located at McCrae Avenue, just off Castle Downs Road N.W. The event is open to the public, and will feature a Guard of Honour from 408 (Tactical Helicopter) Squadron, Air Cadets from the Edmonton Region and the Royal Canadian Artillery Band. A flypast of Griffon Helicopters, Hercules aircraft, and CF-18's is also planned. Veterans from the nearby Kipnes Centre are being invited to take part.

To help commemorate the connection between the city and military aviation, the City of Edmonton will declare the week of September 14-20 "Royal Canadian Air Force Week in Edmonton." Plans are in the works for Mayor Don Iveson to make the declaration at the Alberta Aviation Museum. We are also anticipating a series of events at the museum to support the week, including a wine and cheese on Tuesday September 15.

The week is sure to be a fitting tribute to those served, are serving now and those who will serve Canada's Air Force in the future.